Family-friendly outdoor activities in Maryland this spring

Photo courtesy of Maryland Zoo

Encounters with animals

It’s time for swimming the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore— at least for river otters. The whiskered, webbed-footed creatures glide past viewers as they gaze at them through the glass of their enclosure, which includes a clear tunnel that offers underwater views. At the 135-acre zoo, one of the oldest in the country, you can find species native to the state, such as otters, bobcats and bald eagles, as well as animals from around the world: elephants from Africa, white rhinos, penguins and chimpanzees. to name a few.

The zoo offers experiences that allow people to interact closely with some of its 130 species. Fun includes a giraffe feeding station where guests can hand-feed animals acacia branches, sessions where visitors can watch zookeepers train river otters, rhinos or penguins, and events such as breakfast with the animals, overnight campsites, and beer and wine festivals. .

A new exhibit running through November features 20 animatronic dinosaurs, some of which are up to 35 feet tall and 40 feet long. The exhibit highlights the importance of caring for animals and their habitats today so they don’t suffer the same fate as their reptilian ancestors.

The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (limited hours in January and February). Admission at the door is $26, $23 for ages 65 and over, $22 for ages 2-11, children under 2 free; save $2 by pre-booking your tickets online. Special events and animal experiences have separate prices and tickets.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, 1 Safari Place, 410-396-7102,

Photo courtesy of WSSC Water

In bloom

Walk the dirt roads and gravel paths that wind through the Brighton Dam Azalea Garden in Brookeville when the flowers are blooming and you might feel like you’ve stepped into an impressionist’s painting. Each May, pink, lavender, crimson, orange and white flowers of 15 species of azalea bloom on the 5-acre wooded hillside overlooking the Triadelphia Reservoir. The garden was established in 1959 by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which owns and manages the land and the nearby Brighton Dam, with the aim of beautifying the Patuxent River watershed. The informal garden is also home to birds, ducks and geese, as well as dogwoods and the tallest fringe tree in Montgomery County, which typically bloom in May or June. Wooden benches along the paths provide places to enjoy the view and rest after traversing the hilly terrain. Food and dogs are not allowed in the garden.

The Brighton Dam Azalea Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Parking is available at the Brighton Dam Visitor Center, 2 Brighton Dam Road, Brookeville, 301-206-4386,